This blog was featured on 07/17/2017
Only Commit

Christina Baker Kline is sharing brief capsule pieces exclusively with the She Writes community. Each piece is part of the larger series she's sharing with us. This is her second piece.

To get a book underway, you must fully commit to it.

This is less obvious than it may seem. One of the hardest parts of starting a book is committing to an idea. Because … what if the story isn't big enough? What if it isn't compelling enough? What if there isn't enough of an arc; what if it's the wrong perspective; what if there's a better way to tell the story? (Or should you be telling another story altogether?)

Committing to a story can feel almost as momentous as committing to a partner. The questions you ask yourself aren't so different. Will I really be able to live with this person day after day, year after year? I really like X about him, but I can't stand Y. Things I like about him in small doses might become intolerable over time. And how will he age?

In a 2008 interview with The New York Times Magazine, the late actor Philip Seymour Hoffman addressed this issue. He was talking about how he starts from scratch every time he becomes a new character, but the creative process he describes is similar to a writer's. "Creating anything is hard. It's a cliché thing to say, but every time you start a job, you just don't know anything. I mean, I can break something down, but ultimately I don't know anything when I start work on a new movie. You start stabbing out, and you make a mistake, and it's not right, and then you try again and again. The key is you have to commit. And that's hard because you have to find what it is you are committing to."

When you're ready to commit, make a vow to do the following:

          1. Find someone who encourages your writing, to whom you can be accountable.

2. Avoid people who are competitive with you or otherwise sabotage your writing.

3. Set clear goals for yourself ("I will write a draft of a novel in one year," "I will write one short story a month") with daily goals as well. When I'm writing a novel, I set myself the task of four pages a day. Sometimes I write more, sometimes less, but that's always the goal.

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